Charlotte utility GIS app streamlines easement clearings

GIS app streamlines easement clearings

The utility department  in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., has developed a geospatial application that helps the agency rapidly process the multiple approvals and checklists associated with clearing municipal rights of way and easements.

The utility agency processes more than 1,000 miles of water supply and sewer easements every six years, according to the city. In 2013, more than 173 miles of easements – strips of land used to build and maintain pipelines – were cleared to access sewer lines and to prevent damage from tree root intrusions.

For years, the managers said, the city scheduled easement clearings using paper maps, which slowed down the process and resulted in the added costs of hiring heavy equipment operators to remove trees and roots at the last minute.

The easement-clearing app was developed by a team that included Matt Smith, the city’s chief construction inspector, GIS analyst David Williams and Rob Bailey, Charlotte’s content delivery manager.

With the GIS app, the team can quickly identify the location of easements and check timelines for scheduled clearings.  The app uses Esri’s ArcGIS Online system, a platform to create interactive web maps and applications.

"This app provides a clear 'road map' of the easements, which will help field operations and cleaning contractors save time and, therefore, money," said Smith. "We can carry out accurate and sensible planning prior to committing crews to the field."

The app also enables workers in the field to add data via their mobile devices so all of the utility staff can be updated at once. The information can also be displayed on desktop computers in a virtual dashboard format that helps the team stay ahead of their schedule.

"It saves me an incredible amount of time because in the field I can mark access points, attach pics or mark any other important easement features directly on the app on my phone," said Angel Carter, an engineering assistant coordinating contractor clearing. "It's a real asset to my job."

In May the app project received a city manager's award for innovation. 

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